Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is first congressman to announce testing positive for coronavirus

Politics

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., on Wednesday became the first member of Congress to announce that he has tested positive for coronavirus, saying he had been stricken with a fever and headache this weekend.

The virus has already affected others on Capitol Hill, which remains closed to visitors. Two congressional staffers have been infected by the virus, and some prominent politicians have self-quarantined at both the state and federal levels.

“In an abundance of caution, after votes on Friday, March 13th, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart decided to self-quarantine in Washington, D.C, and not return to South Florida because of his wife Tia’s pre-existing conditions that put her at exceptionally high risk,” his office said in a statement. “On Saturday evening, Congressman Diaz-Balart developed symptoms, including a fever and a headache.  Just a short while ago, he was notified that he has tested positive for COVID-19. While in quarantine Diaz-Balart has been working from his apartment in Washington, D.C.”

Diaz-Balart, 58, added that he’s “feeling much better.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

“However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus,” he said. “We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times.”

Lawmakers have increasingly practiced social distancing amid the outbreak. Earlier this month, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and several other members of Congress announced they would self-quarantine after they had possible exposure to the virus.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tested positive for coronavirus last week. Diaz-Balart has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003.

Also on Wednesday, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tested negative for coronavirus. Trump himself has recently tested negative.

In Iran, the coronavirus has killed several lawmakers and senior political figures.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, boards a subway car on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, before a vote on a coronavirus response bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, boards a subway car on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, before a vote on a coronavirus response bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Hours earlier in the day, President Trump described himself as a “wartime president” fighting an invisible enemy and invoked rarely used emergency powers to marshal critical medical supplies against the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate, meanwhile, approved an aid package that will guarantee sick leave to workers who fall ill.

Trump tapped his authority under the 70-year-old Defense Production Act to give the government more power to steer production by private companies and try to overcome shortages in masks, ventilators and other supplies.

And, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a second coronavirus response bill, sending it to Trump to enact with his signature. The vote was a lopsided 90-8 despite worries by many Republicans about a temporary new employer mandate to provide sick leave to workers who get COVID-19. The measure is also aimed at making tests for the virus free.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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